Michael Gove has made a bold speech denouncing the outdated and old-fashioned computing lessons taught in UK schools and declaring his intention to replace them with a new curriculum as early as September this year. He claimed that the boring teaching of simple IT skills, such as the use of Microsoft Word and Excel, was simply not innovative enough for today’s techno-savvy young people, even going on to suggest that teenagers should be writing computer code and creating their own apps, rather than learning how to use existing ones.
In a video posted on the BBC News website, Gove explained that “because technology is changing so fast, we can’t afford to be stuck with a curriculum that is out of date, that is basically glorified typing.” He explained that the new curriculum would be “creative and rigorous,” encouraging students to learn advanced computer skills such as programming and coding. But though his remarks have been met with enthusiasm by many who believe the UK’s ICT curriculum badly needs to be dragged into the 21st century, others have expressed strong scepticism about how realistic the plans really are.
Not Enough Teachers
Many teachers and representatives of teaching organisations have stepped forwards to question the ability of the current education workforce to deliver a curriculum as sophisticated as that Gove seems to be suggesting. Not only are many ICT teachers untrained in such skills as programming and writing binary code, still more do not even specialise in the subject, but merely teach it alongside many others. To develop an effective and affordable training programme that could realistically be delivered to enough teachers to implement this scheme on a national scale by the end of the year is ambitious if not impossible, experts say.
Not Enough Resources
Others have pointed to the lack of available funding to secure the technological resources necessary for a scheme like this to be rolled out on a national scale. At the most budget-stretched inner-city schools, ICT resources are already paltry, making the idea of introducing such an ambitious teaching scheme seem far out of reach. There are fears that this could lead to a two-tier system, with the most privileged pupils outstripping their peers and leaving those in poorer areas lagging far behind.
No clear guidelines
Another area for concern is the lack of any clear guidelines about the specifics of the new curriculum. Sceptics have pointed out the vast variety of education technology teaching programs that exist online, some far superior to others. With the expectation seeming to be that teachers would largely set their own schemes of learning, the skills and opportunities made available to students would therefore be likely to vary enormously from school to school.
Meeting Students’ Needs
While Gove claims that the overhaul of the ICT curriculum is an important step forward for today’s students, giving them the skills they need to be employable in a technological world, some teachers have come forward to argue that the very tools pupils are most likely to need are those Gove has decided to scrap. Being able to touch-type and use Microsoft Word and Excel, for example, are skills much more likely to be used across the board in the modern workplace than the creation of coding and programs.
So whilst the sentiment behind this radical overhaul of the ICT curriculum seems to be positive, whether or not such a scheme will realistically be successful in schools across the country remains a hot topic for debate.